Coach Jess McKelvey had a simple strategy for capturing the first WPIAL AA Swim Championship in school history: dominate the Relay Events. This is the same strategy used by much larger schools but is often a challenge to duplicate at the AA level. McKelvey noted that “Most of the top AA programs have enough quality swimmers to field two strong Relay Teams, but it is rare that they do well in all three. We felt that we could make a run at the Relays and still have enough depth to compete in the Individual Events.” The strategy paid off with the team earning 228 points defeating 3-time defending champion Quaker Valley by more than 50 points.
The team put Coach McKelvey’s plan into action in their very first event of the meet, the 200 Medley Relay. The team of Seniors Zech Boyce and Nick Madey, Junior Aidan Sommers and Freshman Copper Groll not only finished first, but also broke the WPIAL Record for the event which had stood since 2011. The success continued in the 200 Freestyle Relay where Boyce and Groll teamed with Sophomores Luke Tomzcak and Luke Wagner set a new team record in earning a 2nd place finish. In the final relay and last event of the meet Boyce, Madey, Sommers and Groll again teamed-up for a victory in the 400 Freestyle Relay, an event the team also won at last year’s WPIAL competition.
The team’s performance in the Individual Events ensured that no other team would challenge them for the title. Madey led the team with points finishing 2nd in the 100 Breaststroke and 5th in the 100 Butterfly. Groll also earned a 2nd place finish in the 100 Freestyle and Boyce took 3rd in the 200 Freestyle. Sommers placed 4th in the 100 Backstroke and 6th in the 200 Individual Medley. Tomczak finished one spot behind Sommers in the Individual Medley finishing 7th and also placed 11th in the 100 Breaststroke. Wagner finished 13th in the 50 Freestyle and 18th in the 100 Freestyle. Freshman Graham Herzig, participating in his first WPIAL Championship placed 19th in the 100 Backstroke and 23rd in the Individual Medley.
With their performances in the WPIAL Championships, the team qualified all three of the Relay Events for the PIAA Championships which will be held at Bucknell University the weekend of March 16th. Also, automatically qualifying for individual events at States were Boyce, Madey, Sommers and Groll. The team has a chance to add a few more swimmers to events when the At-Large qualifiers are announced this week.
By Alice Cahill